Steve Babaeko on the Hot Seat – His Motivation, Vision & Staying Power
Friends and Associate hosted Steve Babaeko, CEO, X3M Ideas on his selection as one of Adweek’s Global Creative 100. It was indeed an evening of camaraderie, banters, eulogies and approbation. However, in the midst of the banters at the semi-formal evening, Steve got on the hot seat to share some learnings and did inspire the capacity filled audience at the cocktail at the George, Ikoyi. The Group CEO, X3M Ideas Group mesmerized with his latest addition, Babaeko Farms Ltd, shares kernels that got him to the top, helped him to steadily maintain the success and its attendant fame; and how he prepares for the future. Sure you’ll get to learn one or two things. Enjoy Steve in “first-person”. Excerpts
I am deeply motivated and appreciate Mr. Biodun Sobanjo. I started my advertising career in one of his companies, MC & A Saatchi & Saatchi. At the time, it had Victor Johnson as Managing Director. Mr. Johnson gave me my first job around 1995 in September and those people really inspired me a lot to give this business a shot.
As a creative to run a business, Lanre Adisa who is here today is one of the few creative people I looked up to say, “if L.A can do it, I can also do it”, although, quite a few creatives have done it before him. These are the names; I can say had inspired me apart from the likes of Martin Sorrell and other big names that have done amazing stuff on the global stage. I feel privileged to be here today as a creative running an enterprise.
Work-life balance, your wife, family, and business
First and foremost I always tell people whoever I meet that I am married and how many children I have. Secondly, I always tell people there is no “jass” in this world that can make me leave my family, I love my wife I love my kids they mean the whole world to me. Even in Death, I will cling to the memories I have with them.
Thirdly, is that I have the most amazing and supporting wife ever. My wife is a photographer, if she tells me today she is going to Zamfara to cover an event, I just tell God, “this woman doesn’t know what she is talking about, God please protect her for me”, because there is nothing I can do to stop her. I don’t legislate over her profession, she is in charge fully and empowered. My job is to be her supporter. She recently had a very successful photo exhibition about albinos. I have the limelight all the time, so when she is having her moment in the spotlight, I stay very far away from the spotlight, let her take the credit because she has worked hard. Unlike what most people would think, all the photos for that exhibition I saw it for the first time like everybody who came to that exhibition that day. It had great reviews on local and international media.
To the young, would-be entrepreneurs
I have a lot of people in this category who walk up to me, I tell them what I do differently in our generation is that we live in the generation of “fast food”, where everyone just wants to achieve and be at the top all within a year! When you hear that someone becomes an overnight success that person might have put in 8 – 10 years in the industry. In my own case, I put 17 years of serious servitude and learning the business, learning from people. By the time I started X3M ideas in 2012, we knew all the tricks; we knew where we have to play soft and where to play hard. The deep learning has really helped us.
For young people, I am just going to preach patience. People are in a hurry and that’s wrong. Yes, you learn on the job but you should be patient to fully grasp the basics of the business you are going into. I just tell them, “be patient”.
To the Creative, shoot your shot, you can do it!
I don’t know to be honest but one thing I will do is to continue to inspire creative people that whatever the creative field we find ourselves “go out there shoot your shot and you can do it”, whether its music, film, advertising or whatever.
Why X3M is in music
The reason we get into music is that there’s so much talent in music for us to just turn a blind eye to the business. I am just looking for that one day when I’m going to be a grandpa maybe my grandchildren would ask me, “Yeah you said you’re Nigeria in that age, what of those talents what did you do with them?”. Then, I can say we were able to raise 1 or 2 to stardom. What I just have to say is when you get to the top, don’t get the ladder down so that others younger guys can come up.
On managing competition viz-a-viz quality outputs
Talking about quality, people are not going to understand or appreciate your capacity and they’re not going to believe you unless you are able to demonstrate consistently. Talking about my music work, I have never signed any Talent because someone said I should, I sign talents because I believe in that talents. If I invest N100 million on Talent and doesn’t give me the return I can live with them. I choose my talent and my talent doesn’t choose me. So do your thing the right way, the world is going to understand and when you are done, they are going to give a round of applause.
Everyone gets scared! Even when Barack Obama wanted to give his famous speech, he was scared but what makes you a real man is the quick reaction to be able to overcome the fear and move on. If I didn’t overcome my fear and leave 141-Worldwide by the time I did in 2012, (I was doing good as a business director and traveling business class all over the world) but if I didn’t overcome the fear of failure, I would still live a decent life honestly, but the story can’t be what it is today! It’s not about the money or the fame but the opportunities we are able to give people all over Africa that’s what makes me a happy man.
Yes, I’m scared most of the time. I grew up in one of the poorest families in this country that’s why anytime I go to my town, Kabba in Kogi State, I make sure I go to that “face me and face you” house where I grew up! I see that pit toilet where we used to queue up to do the “major”. When I see these things, they fire me and keep me going. I am not fearless but I’m the man that will look fear in the eye and say I see you but I’m still going to do it because I know that all that one needs is at the other side of fear!
On Babaeko Farms
Recently, on Channels TV I announced that we just set up Babaeko farms. Why farming? There is so much unemployment in this country. At the moment, 65% or 75% of the population is under 25 years. We are one of the youngest in the world in terms of population but people look towards entertainment for quick fame to acquire stardom. I think that is a poor mentality. The truth is, the pipeline that takes you to the entertainment industry out of every thousand young people who go in, if we are lucky in a good year, 15 will come out successful. Look at the past two years the most distinguished breakout assets we have in the entertainment industry are probably Teni and Zlatan do you know how many young people try to get into that industry?
However, with agriculture what you put in is what you are going to get out of it. Last year, this country invested $500million to import palm oil into Nigeria! If I plant my palm fruits, it will never get to a point my palm tree will say I want to go to Obasanjo Farms but that’s what happens in the entertainment industry. I can tell you that in three years’ time whoever has something like this or invest in the agriculture industry will be getting the results. For you to be successful in business especially where I play, you have to create multiple streams of income.
What is the next aim?
My dream and purpose in life is to use my God-given platforms to eenable young Africans to realise their own purpose in life. If I’m able to do that – create more Praizes and more Simis of this world in the music and entertainment industry; I would also be pleased to create more Nike Odutolas, Nike handles our South Central African business operations; more Folahan Salams, Folahan is our Director of Finance; and more Atolagbe Sunkanmis who is our Director of HR. If I’m able to create more of these people in larger numbers, I promise you, the day they put me in that six feet down, I’ll be the happiest man to go down.